*Icom T2H (sport) 2 meter HT*
OK you've decided to take the plunge (finally) and get into ham radio...you have your ham license or are studying for the test and want to listen in while you prepare. The time has come to figure out what kind of radio you need to buy. Mobile unit or HT?...to save the debate you will want both but if I had to choose one to start (and I did) I'd get an HT or "handy Talkie". Opinions vary on what models and manufacturers are the best units. Everyone seems to have their own niche in the market. However for your first radio the most important features are probably that it's an affordable rugged easy to use radio. Later when you upgrade perhaps to a 2 meter/440 dual band radio or even one of the new tri-band radios if you so choose you will STILL want a simple rugged 2M hand held in certain situations. Redundancy is always a good thing. Now there are several good models that would make excellent first radios for you from several manufacturers. Alinco, Kenwood, Yaesu ...all make entry level units at or under $150 dollars. As I said what I was most interested in finding was a standard radio that was rugged reliable and affordable. Ease of use without having a ton of confusing features that nobody ever uses or countless menus to scroll through to accomplish simple tasks are things we look for in equipment for serious use.
All Icom radios for the most part share certain features I find attractive right off the bat. The trend these days is "smaller is better"...more features are better...smaller with more bells and whistles sells radios and provides a niche for a product. Most hams have very specific ideas about what they want in a radio. There are down sides to this trend for us though. Even with newer battery technology an adequate battery bank still takes a certain amount of room. If you want full power output you need a full sized battery bank...there are excellent compromises now but to quote Robert Heinlein (again) "TANSTAAFL" (there aint no such thing as a free lunch ;) The other problem is simple...room!! You need room for the best circuit layout no matter how many IC's or stacked boards you use in a small radio it's easier to get a better layout for performance on a larger one piece board. These Icom's are shock mounted inside solid aluminum chassis inside the plastic case. This makes for a very clean layout and a VERY rugged radio. The other area I dislike many smaller radios in is the antenna connector. You WILL want to repeatedly hook up to the best antenna choice available in a given situation...whether that be a dipole yanked up a tree or a 5/8 wave magnetic mounted antenna on your car or truck. The new smaller radios tend to use an "SMA" connector for the "rubber ducky" antenna. These are small threaded connectors and are not as stable or rugged as the old twist on and off type "BNC" connector. All but the few smaller Icom radios tend to use these more rugged connectors. And lastly, a minor gripe I have is placement of the PTT (push to talk) ear bud and microphone jacks on many radios. I very much like the IC-V8 radio as well but it has the jacks on the side of the radio. Putting them up top allows everything sticking out of the radio to be in the same area. This allows the radio to be in a pouch or inside coat pocket and have less of a chance of the jacks being jarred loose as well as affording easy access to check that connection by hand without looking or removing the radio or trying to reach down inside to see if a jack has worked loose. And lastly, these radios share the same PTT two jack setup with the Icom and Motorola TA-250 radios so many of us use already...allowing us to use the same pre-purchased ear bud/PTT setup.
Now a brief word on batteries and the T2H. The "sport" package means you basically get the radio the rubber ducky antenna and the battery case that allows you to use AA alkaline batteries. Now I'm here to tell you this will get expensive fast...however that is an area i still am pleased with in this radio. The case holds a full 8 AA's for 9.6V output allowing 6 watts of output (1 watt on low) There are ni-cad and nickel-metal sealed packs available from Icom for the T2H. However here is where you again come out ahead. The battery case allows you to use your nickel metal AA batteries you already own (or should) I bought a brand new set (so all cells match in performance) of 1850 maH complete with a cheesy charger for $20 at a wholesale shopping club. At wally world the batteries will run you about $25...this is HALF the price of a sealed 1050 maH rated pack and has a 9.6V 1850 maH rating...a noticeable improvement in performance for less money...how rare. The other upside is I can hold a set of alkalines for emergency backup/reserve if I some how manage to run down the nickel metal cells (which with conservative talk time will run 18 hours a day and be ready to go when you are again. Eventually you will want to run them dead and fully recharge them...I use a good negative pulse fast charger and they take less than 3 hours to go from dead to fully charged...contrasting to 15 hours of gentle slow charge. If you have the time a slow charge is easier on the cells but a good speed charger on the negative pulse charger from time to time keeps them in top shape. You can also find a bad cell and replace it as in contrast to a sealed $50 pack which is now effectively useless with a bad cell. EVERYTHING I use in my BOB uses AA cells...so I can swap cells and carry ONE size...a spare battery case for the T2H runs around $15 if you wanted extra ease in swapping to added reserve power.
How does it perform? Very well just the way a good radio should...scanning both preset channels or the entire band area is great...the auto squelch is so well tuned I have never taken it to a manual setting. I run the battery saver feature on the most conservative setting and still receive a new station breaking in in a fraction of a second. I have dropped it been rained on with it and climbed hillsides (and slid back down a few) with it...I have talked 3 states with it and from a hilltop with a dipole 15 feet up a tree I have talked 65 miles away on both 6 and even on 1 watt. Simplex the radios will talk several miles in most cases even without a repeater. Two special features it does have that are very useful are "channel mode" which makes it look like a 40 channel CB locking out most special features...this allows you to setup the "channels" however you choose and keep things simple for your team...it also makes a regular CB an identical tool in training ;) The other feature is "tone scan" allowing you to eaves drop a PL tone for a repeater you are unfamiliar with...very handy as guessing offset is simple once you find the output frequency of a repeater...usually a standard offsets above or below the input is the answer...but being able to snoop out the PL tone saves you paging through a repeater guide when traveling. And in an emergency you may not have one handy.
Downsides: Well there is no external power for this radio...I solved the problem by making an adapter from an old battery pack with the cells stripped out and wiring in a DC plug like you would plug into your vehicles DC plug/lighter socket. It will run off anything from 9.6 to 13.8 volts according to the manual...in reality it is very picky about over-voltage and has a safe-guard built in that will let you know if it is unhappy. If you wanted to run it from a running vehicle you would need to add an inline fuse (actually built in to most DC plugs so that was already covered) and a filter cap to arrest any line noise from the vehicles ignition and an apropriate resistor to knock the over voltage down a bit...like I said it will be fine on 9.6 volts and doesn't start screaming untill you get much over 13 volts so you have some room to play with what you may have laying around here. This is really the only downside I have noticed...some units have way more than 40 memory presets but how many you really use is another matter. Running the unit from sealed 12V 7 AH lead acid batteries like you may find for deer feeders or salvage from UPS's or alarm service companies allows this radio to run for 2-3 days per fully charged battery around the clock use. So you may wish to order a spare battery case to make the external battery adaptation possible. I think the lack of this feature was a calculated one from the manufacturer...after all if there was something lacking why would you upgrade. Still for $99 I guess you can't complain about having to break out the soldering iron to solve one shortcoming.
We have several hams here that own the T2H in my AO and quite a few within the Rubicon have bought these radios on the advice of the few of us that have beat the snot out of them and come up smiling. The price for the "Sport" package is generally $99 from any decent dealer. Occassionally there are $10 rebates or similar offers...I'd check www.gigaparts.com for a good current price. They are a large dealer and regularly reflect any current manufacturer rebates or offers. Are there other radios I'd rather have?...yeah you betcha!...but not for $99. Would we buy it again? Yup I plan to probably buy a few more and reccomend it universally to new hams.
For further specifications you can go the the manufacturer's info here:
To my mind this is the 2 meter equivalent of the Icom FRS IC4008a radio and has my vote for nomination of an "Alpha Standard" it has certainly become ours.
(hey Mikey I think he likes it! ;)
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